What happens at a detention hearing in a federal criminal case?

What happens at a Detention Hearing in a federal criminal case?



Arrested on Federal ChargesYour detention hearing will also usually be conducted by a magistrate judge. The magistrate judge will look at the U.S. Code to see what factors to consider in determining whether you should be held or released pending arraignment. Although there are many factors, the analysis comes down to three things: (1) Does the magistrate judge believe that you will show up for future court appearances? (2) Does the magistrate judge believe that your release will present a danger to the community? (3) Does the government have a strong case against you? Under some circumstances, there may be a presumption that you will be detained. You may be able to rebut the presumption. Often, you will need a reputable “third party custodian” in order to have an opportunity to be released. A “third party custodian” is someone who will agree to report back to the court if you violate any condition of pre-trial release.

The purpose of the hearing is to provide you with an opportunity to demonstrate to the magistrate judge that there are release conditions that he or she can put into place that will insure your presence at future court appearances and the safety of the community. 18 § 3142 identifies factors the court will consider in making this determination. These factors include:


1.   The nature and circumstances of the offense charged, including (among other things) whether it involves:

a.         a minor,

b.         a controlled substance,

c.         a firearm, or

d.         an act of terrorism.

2.   The weight of the evidence against the defendant.

3.   The history and characteristics of the defendant including the defendant’s:

a.         character,

b.         physical and mental condition,

c.         family ties,

d.         employment,

e.         financial resources,

f.          community ties,

g.         history of alcohol or drug abuse,

h.         criminal history,

i.          record for court appearances, and

j.          whether the defendant was under some other release condition at the time of the charged conduct.


Federal Criminal Defense HandbookPrior to the detention hearing, a probation officer will typically interview the defendant and prepare a pre-trial report. The pre-trial report will contain information and analysis relating to the above-listed factors. In addition, the pre-trial report will contain a recommendation to the court. The report may recommend release or detention. The magistrate judge may or may not follow the recommendation of the probation officer but will definitely consider the information contained in the report.

Some defendants determine that it is in their best interest to waive the detention hearing and voluntarily remain in custody pending arraignment. Waiving your detention hearing may best for you. Proceeding with a hearing may be best. You should discuss this issue with your lawyer.

Speaks Law Firm federal criminal defenseFor more information about the biggest mistakes people make in federal criminal cases that cost them years away from their families and the most effective ways to avoid these mistakes please call (877) 593-4233 to request a free copy of my book, Busted by the Federal Authorities, A Handbook for Defendants facing Federal Criminal Prosecution or to speak with an experienced professional about your case.


R. Clarke Speaks
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Trial Lawyer and Founder of Speaks Law Firm, P.C.